MANCHESTER CITY VS MANCHESTER UNITED
22.09.2013

The first derby of the new season. Both teams were fresh from Champions League victories and both teams were attempting to keep up with the leading pack in this open part of the league season.

The big news for United was the omission of van Persie due to a groin strain. This didn’t bode well as the threat the Dutchman carries is just too great for United to miss in such an important game.

PERSONNEL

In: Welbeck and Young
Out: van Persie and Kagawa

KEY POINTS

  • Vidic and Ferdinand were bullied and outmanoeuvred.
  • One-Two passing – United didn’t show enough of it and didn’t counter City’s.
  • De Gea looked shaky.
  • A case of passing and moving vertically v horizontally, with United’s horizontal passing being their downfall.
  • The ‘fight back’ came too little too late.
  • Rooney played well again, was United’s best player by a mile but with those around him not performing was often isolated.
  • Are United really that reliant on van Persie?

FIRST HALF

United lined up in a 4-4-2 of sorts but it was difficult to see any kind of sense in the positioning in the top half. Rooney and Welbeck didn’t stay close to each other making it look like a 4-4-1-1 with what appears to be Moyes’ favourite set of wingers in Valencia and Young in the wide areas. The front two spent too much space apart with Welbeck not connecting successfully with the wingers even though they were playing narrow (far too narrow). Their crossing provided poor delivery.

City, meanwhile, had Navas who has started the season well and he offered Evra a test, particularly with his speed; Evra’s positioning proved to be key in this battle.

FIRST HALF

The game took an age to get going but it did when City went 1-0 up. This resulted when Valencia failed to pick up an overlap. This comical defensive lapse was concluded by two events leading up to Aguero’s goal. Firstly Aguero was allowed to drift into the box by Fellaini, (poor concentration), and secondly Evra’s poor positioning in not picking up his run. That being said Aguero still had a lot to do to finish and he did that well.

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United were just not at the game, off the pace and chasing. City were right on their game. Simple as that. They overloaded when attacking and sat evenly when defending. United were playing the passes rather than the players and getting sucked into City’s neat and short passing game, particularly in the middle where there was swathes of space available. The lack of a responsive from United’s players was a worry, we hate to say it, but there was no desire and ‘bust a gut’ mentality; on a number of occasions United players didn’t put their all into the 50/50s.

The play around the edge of the box was horrific to watch from United’s perspective. Nasri and Aguero were running riot in that zone between Smalling and Ferdinand, runs and passes of 5-10 yards starting and ending in different areas proved too much for the reds. Negredo fully occupied the thoughts of Vidic and Ferdinand as he moved across the line. Mix this up with the dynamism of Navas who ghosted wide and Kolarov overlapping even as City kept a narrow and tight shape.

City went 2-0 up just before the break and again it was due to poor marking from a corner. This was a calamity. It’s was best to just move on as the half time whistle blew. However, it was difficult to see how United would do in that second half. Without pace and incisiveness a recovery now seemed a daunting prospect for the reds.

SECOND HALF

United started the half terribly, not only with the sickening third goal but also clearly not having learned the lessons of the first half. Vidic was still under severe examination by Negredo leaving Aguero not being picked up.

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No sooner had that goal been digested then City scored their fourth. This started from the usual interception of a United pass in their own half; this happened far too often, the culprit this time was Young. The interception aside, the poor tracking back and lack of discipline when marking in the box was shocking.

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This was a dire state of affairs; United simply hadn’t been competitive and their lack of energy further up field was alarming. Are United that reliant on van Persie? To this point United hadn’t carried a threat with Rooney isolated and dominated by Kompany. As a consequence City were able to attack without significant defensive concern and United were unable to relieve the pressure.

SECOND HALF

Moyes then made a change on 60 minutes by bringing Cleverley on for Young with Fellaini pushing much higher up. As a consequence United began to enjoy much more possession but what did that matter as by know City were 4-0 up. City kept the space between defence and attack very tight as United played 4-2-4 in a vain attempt to get back into the game.

The lack of pace in United’s performance was still alarming, especially through Vidic and Ferdinand, who were often out paced by Nasri, Negredo and Aguero. It wasn’t just defending, even when attacking the vibrancy was absent, rarely was the second or third pass on when United were in possession.

United’s crossing was awful; Rooney on corners and Valencia from open play. As a result Valencia moved even further infield and Smalling advancing on the overlap was relied upon for the crosses. The right back made valiant attempts to get forward but his crossing ability is not one of his strong points.

Rooney was the only bright light in this gloomy performance yet he was subdued by effective marking from Kompany who is a class act and makes such a difference to City.

After the substitution United now had more of the ball and a degree of space on the right, Pellegrini brought on Dzeko and Milner, to allow an outlet and reduce this space, seeing City set up as a 4-5-1.

In the closing stages Rooney scored an amazing free kick, this was United’s only highlight.

CONCLUSION

As French football correspondent Philippe Auclair stated on the Guardian Podcast this week, United “had no shape, no sense”, this was a fair assessment. They were slow and second to everything, even when they pushed Fellaini further up there was no significant improvement.

The players have to take most of responsibility, their performance, their poor judgement and execution was unacceptable.

Rooney was our best player but was starved from the middle to the wings. Fellaini and Carrick played too close to each other and were very static whilst Young and Valencia offered very little.

Fellaini must be questioned on his marking as he allowed Aguero to drift into open space on both his goals. Does he have a problem with concentration? This proved an issue again here after similar examples in the mid-week Champions League game. The area between the lines was something that troubled United all game.

The compactness of City’s play caused the reds further problems as they were unable to respond quickly enough to their interplay and when they were sucked in City had a useful outlet in the form of Navas who played very well.

Yet the thing that really screamed out was the lack of leadership and desire, there appeared to be very little appetite for a battle and tactics aside United needed a display the likes of which we saw from Kompany.

This match could be a defining moment for many, players and manager alike. The players need to step up from here. We need a response. For the manager it may be a game where he learned a lot about the players at his disposal. He will also learn more from their response.

The players have an opportunity to rectify their performances on Wednesday when they play Liverpool in the League Cup.